What’s the Weakest Link in Your Supply Chain?

Jan 2017

At what point do you know you have a problem with your fresh food supply chain? Is it when your produce section is suddenly teeming with overripe strawberries or when you have too many oranges you’re practically giving them away?

Looking at what perishable goods keep popping up in your reduced-to-clear sections is often the first signal that something isn’t right with your supply chain. But in an increasingly complex and global supply chain, finding the reason for the break down often requires a Sherlock Holmes approach to discovering who’s the culprit.

Was it the result of poor forecasting? Was demand simply not there? Or did the product have too short a shelf life? This is when you have to dig deep into your supply chain analytics to ask ‘Why?’

There can be many reasons why your fresh produce isn’t selling and here at iTradeNetwork, we have helped thousands of suppliers and retailers identify the weakest links in their supply chains. By being able to aggregate a lot of the supply chain data into one place, we can look across the entire supply chain to identify problems fast, without having to do a serious amount of manual investigative work up front. So what things can we look at?

Did the item spend too long in the supply chain?
If the item was harvested four days ago, but only arrived in store today – Where has it been sitting? Assessing the quality and subsequent decline during the supply chain is key to understanding where things are going wrong. Is the distribution center kept at the same temperature? Was it stored near a draught? Does the distribution center operate a First-In-First-Out system? By building up a picture of the supply chain, you can start improving the product’s journey and ultimately deliver fresher food with a longer shelf life.

How was product quality monitored?
Quality inspections can be tailored to the retailer’s demand. It might just be a load inspection – Is the truck at the right temperature? Or you can do a more detailed inspection, testing sample pallets for sight, smell, firmness or using sensors to test the brix level of fruit. You can even pre-load images into the system of the type of blemishes to avoid to help identify problems early on. Normally these inspections will test the cases closest to the door, middle and at the back to get a good cross section of how consistent the storage is throughout the truck. Is it cooling really heavily at one end, yet barely filtering through to the other? You don’t want your tomatoes too cold at one end and too warm at the other. What you want is the Goldilocks effect, when it’s just right. And who is checking the quality assurance?

Can I use third party data?
The benefit of iTradeNetwork Fresh solutions is that we can plug in all the data and give you a one-stop-shop for visibility. If your frozen meat is being transported across Europe in a refrigerated truck, but arrives defrosted – How can you raise the alarm while it is in transit? If you are using a GPS system to monitor the temperature, we can integrate our software into these third-party solutions so that you can monitor supplier performance.

At iTradeNetwork, we know how one low-quality commodity or underperforming store can make a lasting impact on brand, store traffic and sales. By collecting data from anywhere in the supply chain, we can help you quickly identify any quality gaps, so that those overripe strawberries that have been sitting in your reduced-to-clear section for the last few weeks, quickly become a thing of the past.

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